tv Tonight From Washington CSPAN July 16, 2012 8:30pm-11:00pm EDT
i would say the citizens united case from the supreme court was as negative on the political process of america as the dred scott decision by the same supreme court was on the social fabric of america. what they have unleashed with citizens united is a force we have never, ever seen before in american politics. it is the force of anonymous secret donors, people, oligarchs, millionaires and billionaires who are determined to impose their political will on the body public and will spend whatever it takes to achieve it. we are seeing it all across the country. there's not a single contested senate race that these super pac's haven't arrived and spent $5 million, $10 million, $12 million already in negative advertising across this country, most of it unaccounted for. now, the disclose acts, which brings us together this evening, is very basic in that people who give more than $10,000 must
disclose their identity. it applies to labor unions, corporations, everyone. it's across the board. now, disclose used to be one of the tenets, one of the pillars of the republican position. they used to say, don't limit what a person can give as long as they disclose it in a timely fashion. well, they amended their position after citizens united and lopped off the end of it. don't limit what a person can give, period. they don't call for timely disclosure anymore. the disclose act does. and why is it important? it's important because americans have good judgment and they know that if a person, for example, the coke brothers. the coke brothers of pennsylvania, if i'm not mistaken -- wherever their home happens to be -- they're interested in energy and oil production. and if they invest millions of dollars on behalf of a certain candidate, many people, many voters will say, well, i wonder what that candidate's position
is on their issues of the tax treatment of oil companies, on energy tax credits and the like. so americans will ask the right question as long as they know who's behind the issue. under citizens united, there's no compulsion. senator bennet of colorado said just moments ago, the supreme court made it clear in the citizens united decision though they were unleashing the opportunity to contribute, that they expected that there would be accountability, like the disclose act. well, unfortunately they didn't anticipate that it would become a partisan issue, and virtually no republicans have supported us. today when the vote was cast, not a single republican would vote to bring this bill to the floor for a debate. we are now in the midst of a republican filibuster on the disclose act. another republican filibuster. not one single republican senator would join us in this effort to bring this bill to the
floor for debate, amendment and a vote. we've seen so many republican filibusters now. we see this one. the reason that this is more important than most is it really gets to the heart of our political process. it sent just a matter of who spends what and how much in a campaign. i look at it from a little different perspective. i'm concerned about who will run for office. i used to put myself in the category -- i think it still applies -- of mere mortals who decided to get involved in politics. i don't come from wealth. i'm not a wealthy person. i have never relied on my personal wealth to get me elect. if i did, it wouldn't last very long. and i wonder if people like me will ever get engaged in politics after citizens united. they have to stop and think. no matter how many doors i knock on, no matter how many hands i shake, no matter how often i study the issues and take positions that i think are meaningful and would resonate with voters, the fact is, some super pac would arrive tomorrow, spend a million dollars and blow
me away. that is a humbling thought for someone deciding to engage in a race for public office for the first time. now, i think that this really gets to the heart of what's wrong with politics in america, the cost and nature of our political campaigns. it is a fact, and i -- you hear that every day on the floor of the senate. people measure the gravity and importance of votes in terms of their political impact. how many times have i heard someone cast a vote here and afterwards say, well, that will be a good 30-second spot. you think about that because you know that's what our life experience translates into, messages that can be delivered through the media to the voters. and now this outside force comes along and spends enormous amounts of money, dramatically increasing the amount that's been spent. as was said earlier, 2006, outside groups spent $70 million to influence federal midterm
elections. 2006, $0 million. -- $70 million. four years later, super pacs, outside groups, spent $294 million, four times as much. trust me, it's on its way up. well, what will the average family think about this? i said to my colleagues at a lunch a few weeks back, i think that the average voter looks at this enormous wash of money coming into american politics much the way they you're gangland -- very view gangland killings. well, as long as they want to kill one another off and i don't have to hear the gunfire and my family's not in danger, then let them have at it, spend whatever you want, politicians versus politicians. but the fact, is this is going to be gunfire they're going to hear because the net result of these super pacs and the money they spent will be decisions on critical issues. trust me, the people who are pouring the money into the super pacs have an agenda. it's an agenda about the role of government, what the tax code
will look like, whether certain corporations and special interests will be treated in a better way by the candidates who are benefited by super pacs. so though the average family may think it's just politicians squabbling and wasting their own money, it's much worse. it unfortunately brings to us the point where we have to worry not only about who will run for office but once elected, who will stay in office. and what about those in office? i've thought about it myself. i'm sure my colleagues have. you cast a vote on the floor and you think to yourself, i just opened the door for a super pac to come in the next time i'm up for an election to nail me because i took them on. but if we've reached the point where members of the united states senate are quaking and quivering over the prospect of super pac money being spent against them, we're going to lose something very fundamental and important in the american body politic. i also want to say something about those who are defending the secrecy of the super pacs.
in my hometown newspaper and in the newspapers of chicago, after they print an article, they usually give local people a chance to anonymously comment and occasionally i read the banter back and forth. it is amazing the chest thumpi thumping, fire breathing that you get in these comments from these anonymous pip-squeaks who don't have the courage to disclose their own names. and i would say that it should be a standard in american politics, if you feel strongly enough to put your money on the line to a super pac, then you ought to have the courage and the law should require that your identity be disclosed as well. i see senator stabenow is here and i know that she's got a busy life of her own and i'm going to yield the floor to her. but i will say one last thing. i was invited to go on the "daily show" which a lot of people follow closely and i enjoy every time i watch. and john stewart asked a question of me, if you could
pass one law that would change politics for the better in america, what would it be? and i said, well, it may be a little ego tis cal of me but it will be a bill i have for public financing of campaigns. i really, honestly believe that if we move to a stage where we have public financing, shorter campaigns, positive messages, real debates, it would enhance not only our reputation with the voters of america, it would enhance the institutions that we're running for. currently we don't have that. we don't have public financing. maybe we never will. but while we have the current system of money being spent, let's at least demand, as the disclose act does, that there be transparency and accountability for the good of our democracy and for the benefit of the voters. mr. president, i yield the floor. ms. stabenow: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: thank you so much. i first want to thank senator whitehouse for his leadership. i'm proud to join him and so
many of my colleagues in supporting and cosponsoring the legislation that's in front of us and thank our majority floor leader for his comments and all of those who care deeply about, frankly, our -- our democracy, which is really what we're talking about this evening. i strongly believe in the disclose act and think it's critical as step one. i think there's, frankly, much more that needs to be done even as we go forward to -- to add to this. but this is a very important basic standard of transparency. if you spend $10,000 on ads trying to affect an election, people should know who you are. it's just as simple as that. and i think it's important for us to emphasize the fact that a majority of the senate this evening voted for this bill. the reason we didn't pass the
bill tonight is that the republicans, colleagues on the other side of the aisle, are putting us in a situation where we have to reach 60 votes and, therefore, by not doing that, they are filibustering the bill. so they're blocking the bill. they're filibustering the bill. we have a majority. all we want's a vote, just give us a vote. if we had an up-or-down vote on this bill, this bill would have been passed. and i think it's incredibly important for everyone to understand that. it's not that we don't have the support. we have the votes. it was demonstrated this eveni evening. at the moment what we don't have is the super majority to get past a filibuster. and i would urge everyone listening and watching tonight to contact their member to urge them to support the effort to stop the filibuster, which is what we're talking about right now.
unfortunately for everyone in america, we know this is going to be the most negative campaign cycle in the history of the country. secretly funded negative ads with ominous music and shadowy figures and vicious attacks are going to fill our living rooms for the months between now and the election. in fact, in many states that's already been happening very, very intensely. and we know why. we've been talking about that. a court decision that has tied money to free speech. corporations are people. money equals free speech. which creates a situation where now we're being told, through the supreme court ruling on citizens united, that we, in fact, cannot put limits on corporate money or union money or any other kind of dollars coming in because it's urn the category -- because it's under the category of free speech. and it's opened the floodgates for secret money, allowing
special interests -- and that's who's spending the money, special interests with their own agenda -- to spend unlimited funds to essentially buy elections, to buy a u.s. senate that works for them, a u.s. house of representatives, a presidency that works for them. not the majority of americans, not the folks that got up this morning and went to work, maybe they took a shower before work but maybe they took a shower after work, the folks that are working very, very hard every day trying to hold it together, who've been through the toughest recession we have seen since the great depression, who have most likely struggled with their house underwater and credit card debt too high and tried to piece together maybe one or two or three part-time jobs to hold things together for their families. they're not the ones that are funding these secret ads. it's -- it's not their secret money. what we know so far is that over half the money that's come in
has been from 17 multibillionaires in our country. and when you think about that, it's -- it's pretty worrisome when bunk the fact that 17 or 18 or 20 people in our country could decide to buy a form of government that works for them. that is certainly not a democracy, and i think that this bill is part of an effort that we are all working to achieve to really protect the basics of our democracy. it's not about making judgments for people about who they shall vote for, who they should support, how they should be involved in elections, but it is about making sure that we all know that the -- that we all know, that the american people know who's spending the money so that each american can make their own judgment about the agenda of the people that are spending the money and whether or not it reflects their own
agenda and their own values. so this is just simply about shining the light of day, opening up a process, transparency so that each of us can make our own judgments about who we choose to believe and not believe in this political process. you know, when we run tv ads, the law requires us to disclose. we go on at the end of the ad and say, you know, "i'm senator stabenow and i approved this message." personally, i don't see why somebody else funding it shouldn't be doing that, too. and i know that the sponsor of this bill agrees with that, as do i know my colleagues on this side of the aisle. but we're not even asking that. we're simply saying, if you spend $10,000 or more, you need to disclose it, you need to put it up on a web site so the public has the opportunity to
know who you are and how much you're spending. there's a couple of brothers we talk a lot about now because of the money that they have been openly talking about spending. it's been in the papers certainly, it's been in the media for months. but two gentlemen called the k koch brothers whork have been spending millions and millions of dollars and i believe -- i don't know what the final numbers will be. i've seen numbers that show that each of the two of them say they want to spend $200 million, $400 million together. i don't know. maybe more. to impact the elections. i think it's important for the people in michigan, the people of rhode island, the people in colorado, across the country to know that they're doing that and who they are, and how much is being spent in order to make a judgment about how they're choosing to spend their money.
if someone, whoever it is, is spending dollars above $10,000 on influencing elections through ads, americans variety to know. -- americans have a right to know. and we know, right now from the way we've been able to piece together so far what is happening, that we are talking about big, wealthy special interests -- no surprise as to who's spending the money. what's their motivation, what are they trying to buy? well, i know that there are those who would like to keep special tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. we're going to have a chance, once we complete this debate, to vote on legislation of mine called the bringing jobs home act. there are those that don't want us to eliminate the tax break that allows folks who are
shipping jobs overseas to write it off their taxes, which i find outrageous. but there are folks on the other side shipping jobs overseas who want to keep that tax break. and may very well want to spend money against candidates and against members who vote for my bill. we know that big oil companies want to keep taxpayer subsidies. even though they're the most profitable companies in the history of the world and probably when the tax incentives started in 1916 made a lot sense for new, emerging companies, doesn't make sense today from a taxpayer standpoint to be paying high prices at the pump out of one pocket and subsidies to the companies out of the other. but we know that they may very well want to spend money to be able to keep those subsidies.
73% of americans want to end oil and gas subsidies, but the special interests are fighting to keep them, and spending money -- and we know that there's money being spent in the elections, secret money, to support people that will keep those tax subsidies. so, the question is, why is this in the public interest in america, in the greatest democracy in the world? why in the world are we letting this happen? our democracy is not for sale. it should not be for sale, and we're fighting to make sure that it's not for sale. the people of our country are the ones who have the power to decide who represents them, and it should not be a group of anonymous billionaires somewhere that are able to do that. so when those billionaires want
to buy attack ads and influence our votes, the least they can do is have the courage to come forward, say how much they're spending, and put their name to it, and be able to have to disclose that to everybody. the american people have the right to know. the people in michigan have the right to know. we've seen already millions of dollars being spent in michigan, and people have the right to know who's spending that money, what's their background, what's their interest, so that they can make their own judgment about whether or not it has any credibility. the 2010 mid-term elections saw more than 400% increase in spending from what's been called the super pacs. 400% increase in spending. two years ago. the presiding officer: the senator's 10 minutes has expired. ms. stabenow: if i might just have one more minute, without objection. the presiding officer: without objection.
ms. stabenow: thank you. let me just indicate there is a in just the first four months of this year 90% of all outside money being spent in this coming november presidential election was secret. 90% of what was spent in just the first four months of this year. 90% was secret. this is about openness. this is about transparency. this is about whether or not everyone in our country is going to have the opportunity to have information to make their own judgments. we need to be allowed to pass this bill. we need an up-or-down vote on this issue. we need to stop the filibuster, that's happening by republicans on the other side of the aisle. stop blocking the bill. let us vote on it. we have the votes to get it passed. the american people deserve to have this passed. i yield the floor.
mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: mr. president, i know we have senator hagan and senator bennet to say one more thing, and senator franken here all waiting, but i'd like to do some quick parliamentary business. the first is to ask unanimous consent that privileges of the floor be granted to the following members of senator franken's staff: whitney brown and joel solomon for the rest of today's session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: the second ^s to ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration en bloc of the following resolutions which were submitted earlier today: senate resolutions 520, 521, 522, and 523. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the resolutions en bloc. mr. whitehouse: i ask unanimous consent that the resolutions be agreed to, the preamble be agreed toes, the motion to reconsider be laid on
the table en bloc, with no intervening action or debate, and any statements repeated to the resolutions be -- any statements related to the resolutions be printed in the record at the appropriate place as if read. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: in conclusion, mr. president, i might note that senate resolution 520 recognized the 103rd anniversary of the founding of the naacp, which for reasons that i will discuss later, is an interesting irony in today's debate coming from the republican side. and i will now yield to senator bennet of colorado and he'll be followed by senator hagan. mr. bennet: thank you. the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. bennet: thank you, mr. president. i wanted to before the senator from south carolina speaks, thank the senator from rhode island again for your leadership and my other colleagues who were out here tonight. i want to be clear again about what this bill is.
first of all, it's very clear that it's constitutional. the supreme court, 8 of 9 justices have said that. as i listen to the debate, i also think people at home should know that this really is about a few actors in the country that have been allowed to spend wild amounts of money without saying who they are. this doesn't prevent them from spending the money. it simply says, they need to say who they are. and my sense, having spent time with people that are often asked to contribute to these campaigns, is that people that have the means to spend $10,000 on political activity, by and large, would actually like this disclosure requirement. and the reason they would like this disclosure requirement is so they can say to people that are trying to enlist them in distorting our politics, they're trying to have them pay for negative attackards that they really don't -- attack ads that
they really don't agree with, they can say no. they could say, i don't want to sign up for that because i don't want to put my name on that. there's an enforcement mechanism here that i think virtually everybody in america would support, certainly people at home. in fact, i'd argue the only place in america that anybody would think that spending vast amounts of money by a really small group of people without them having to tell us who they are makes sense, and that's right here in washington, d.c. maybe some people will benefit from mabe making the ads, and ae paid to place the ads on television. but otherwise it is hard to find anyone that wouldn't think this wasn't in their interest to -- and certainly their children's interest. with that in mind, i'd ask that -- i'd ask to be added to the record today senator coburn's column on the op-ed page of "the new york times" where i think he lays out in a very succinct, i
think, compelling view some of the things that are wrong with this place. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. bennet: and also it calls for the kind of principled leadership, i think, we are going to need to are alie in order to -- to apply in order to solve our debt and deficit, recouple rising wages, an energy policy, educate our kids in the 21st century, all the things that people at home want to be work on -- want us to be working on. and in a state like mine where there's actually not that much difference of opinion about what the solutions ought to be. and the reason i support the disclose act is i think it is one important step -- certainly not the only step -- but one important step towards recumming the conversation we're --
recoupling the conversation we're having here, or maybe it's better to say, recoupling the priorities that people have at home to work that's being done or not done in washington, d.c. we should pass this bill and get on to the people's business and with that, i'll yield the floor. mr. whitehouse: and, mr. president, if i may, before the senator from colorado leaves the floor, may i ask him in an environment in which the bulk of the political spending is being done by outside groups and the bulk of the outside spending groups is secret, what is the likelihood of those goals being accomplished with the best interests of the american people in mind and not with the best interests of the special interests behind those secret donations in mind? mr. bennet: i think it is going to be made much more debt limit --much more difficult. and there are plenty of people who watch this at home on tv and they don't recognize themselves iinin the cartoon that's playing
there. they don't recognize the priorities or the convictions they have or the aspirations they have for the communities in the debate they're having here and it is a natural reaction for people to say, i don't want any part of that. as dick durbin was staying somehow this is a -- was staying that somehow this is a knife fight that has nothing to do with me and i am not going to pay attention to it. the problem with any fight like that, what we end up doing is duck and covering because that's what we have to do, you know, to stay out of the way. and that isn't going to put us in the position of being able to deliver on the promise of generation after generation after generation of americans to make sure that the folks coming after us actually have more opportunity, not less, than we had. remember, this is a tiny proposal. this is simply requiring disclosure. it is not even requiring disclaimer. frankly, if it were up to me, i
would want people that funded these committees to have to stand up at the end of the ads and say, i'm john smith or i'm mary jones, and i paid for this. but this bill doesn't even do that. all it says is that they have to say who they are. and i think poll after poll after poll shows that 90% of americans, democrats, republicans, independents, agree with that. this is one where -- this is one issue where the sort of optical issues that happen somehow in the beltway ought to not lead us to a place where, you know, we obscure the vision of the american people, which on this issue is clear as can be, and we got to get this done and get on to the rest of the business at hand. with that, i yield the floor. i yield to the senator from north carolina. mrs. hagan: thank you, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mrs. hagan: thank you. i, too, echo my senator from colorado's comments, and i want to thank senator whitehouse from
rhode island for bringing this bill forward and for putting together what the american people expect from people who donate to campaign -- to campaigns. today i join my colleagues, as i did two years ago, to discuss the state of campaign finance and reflect on what i think is a dark cloud that's been cast over our nation's election system. the supreme court decision in citizens united created a wate watershed effect and in our election process. it eviscerated decades of campaign finance law that was in place for the pup of making sure that the american people, not special interests, decided our elections. two years ago i expressed deep concern that this ruling would weaken the voice of the american people in elections, and i am afraid my fear and the fears of many others have come true. since the ruling, many political operatives have established
nonprofit supposed social welfare organizations under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. these groups utilize a loophole in the tax code to receive huge, secret donations intended solely to influence political campaigns rather than promote the social welfare of our citizens. in 2006 outside groups spent $69 million on political campaigns. only 1% -- $690,000 in tw*eubgs -- of that funding came from undisclosed sources. by comparison in 2010 the amount of outside groups spending on political campaigns skyrocketed to $305 million. and the sources of 44% of that money was not disclosed. so in just four years' time the amount of undisclosed dollars grew exponentially from 1% to
almost half of all outside political spending. this year outside group spending is projected to rise at an astounding rate and we're certainly seeing it now. of the $140 million raised by super pacs thus far, 82% has come from secret donors. that's shocking, and we know it's growing. in north carolina, the story is no different. last week the charlotte observer reported that more than any congressional battle in the south, north carolina's eighth district has become a magnet for money, and that's outside money. in that same article, the newspaper reported that only two other districts in the entire country have seen more outside spending than the $1.6 million poured into the eighth congressional district. the two candidates themselves have only spent $1 million through the end of june. let me point out, this level of spending is for a runoff primary
election in a mostly rural part of north carolina. i cannot imagine what the general election race will look like. that level of secret, anonymous money influencing our political elections is breathtaking. america's campaign finance process should and must be transparent. of course every american, including the wealthiest among us, has the right to have his or her voice heard, but those spending huge amounts of money to influence elections should not hide their activities. information on who is funding political advocacy should be available to the public so that voters can ultimately make fully informed decisions. the disclose act would take a step in the right direction to ensure accountability in our system. the bill would institute comprehensive disclosure requirements on corporations, on
unions and other organizations that spend money on federal election campaigns. by increasing the transparency of campaign spending by these groups, the disclose act seeks to prevent unregulated and unchecked power over our elections by a handful of wealthy corporations and individuals. right now the voices of ordinary americans, of ordinary north carolinians are being drowned out by secret money. north carolina deserves better. our country deserves better. that is why i am cosponsoring the disclose act. the voices of north carolinians, not the voices of a few wealthy companies and individuals should determine the outcome of our elections. i will continue to work with my colleagues here in the senate to protect the integrity of the elections process. we came very close last time with 59 votes. we were one vote away. i hope my colleagues on both
sides of the aisle will join this effort to achieve a fair and transparent elections process. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: mr. president, senator coons will be joining us very shortly. he was on the floor just a moment ago and will be back very shortly. i wanted to take a moment before he returns -- ah, here he is. i will not take a moment before he returns. i will yield the floor, and the senator from delaware, i await hearing him.
mr. coons: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: mr. president, i rise today to join the chorus of voices from our caucus who have tonight spoken to the value, to the importance of transparency in elections. transparency, as we all know, is critical for free and fair elections, for democracy to function. because the people of this country, the voters, the constituents, those whom we serve and those who hire and fire all who serve them in federal and state and local offices, need to know who they really represent, who is funding their campaigns, what goals they'll pursue in office and whether or not the ends really serve their interest. and tonight, mr. president, as you know all too well, colleagues have joined to speak in support of the disclose act, something that would make important progress towards clearing away the clouds that have been laid on to the face of
the american body public because of the decision of citizens united. the integrity and the fairness of our elections is at the heart of american democracy. it is in some ways the proudest legacy of the founding fathers and in my view, a beacon to the rest of the world. a difficult, a regular part of the modern electioneering is campaign ads. many of us spend a huge amount of our time raising the money and delivering the content to connect with our constituents through television. i'm blessed to represent a small state, just roughly 800,000 or so, so we actually get to campaign door to door, to go door knocking to meet people in person in my campaign. still television ads play a very important part. in other larger states folks will very often never meet in person the candidates for offices in the house or the senate or for president. and television ads dominate the whole campaign election process.
no one likes campaign ads, but they are a part of our politics and an effective and a sadly powerful part as well. for most of our modern political history, voters at least knew who the ads were coming from. the candidates and the parties that supported them, and could make judgments accordingly. if you thought an ad was too nasty, you could vote against the candidate who ran it. that's the whole point. mr. president, forcing us as candidates to own our ads, to say i'm chris coons, and i approved this ad. we all know as candidates who stood before our electorate who it feels to put your personal name, your face to an ad that might be hitting just a little too hard, and that pulls us back from sometimes overreaching. but what we're here to talk about tonight is the whole new world that's been unleashed by a supreme court decision. in my view, the basic right of every american to free and fair elections has been promised by a
new -- has been compromised by a new flood of tens of hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy individuals, from corporations, from shadowy national special interest groups that since the supreme court with citizens united opened floodgates to unlimited secret campaign activities, threaten to overwhen many the fundamental trust of our constituents and the transparency so essential to our democracy. as a lawyer, citizens united was one of the most surprising supreme court decisions of my life, because it radically up ended settled constitutional understandings as well as bipartisan agreement that had been reached here in the senate regarding appropriate limitations on corporate speech. when the mccain-feingold law passed in 2002, just six years prior, it showed a strong bipartisan intent to rein in corporate spending, to rein in and manage spending by interests of all kinds in politics. that's why i was shocked when in
the opinion in citizens united, it was joined by the so-called originalists or strict constructionist members of the court. the orpblgalists most -- orpblgalist most of -- originalists asks a common questions: would the framers support this as being constitutional. if you asked me in 2008 looking at citizens united at the issues presented to the court whether an originalist interpreting the first amendment would have found the corporate electioneering regulations this body adopted in mccain-feingold to be valid? it seems to me there was only one possible answer, and that was yes. our founding fathers recognized corporations are creatures not endowed like the rest of us with inalienable rights. they are rather fictional legal creatures. were this not the case, the corporation, whose name is citizens united, the corporation that was at issue in this
decision wouldn't have stopped at simply making a movie attacking hillary clinton but would have actually cast a vote against hillary clinton. of course it couldn't. corporations don't have bad hair days. corporations don't have tasteless ties. corporations don't have moods and opinions. corporations are not people. they exist as people only in legal fiction. and i would note the first amendment states congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech nor of the press. if the freedom of speech included fictional entities, nonhuman entities like corporations, there would have been no reason to separately affirm he the press also enjoy that freedom granted to real living, breathing individuals. in my view, mr. president, citizens united was wrongly decided. shown through a long line of judicial interpretation that view corporations as having
first amendment rights that are limited and can and should be limited more than can be limited for real, living, breathing individuals has remained the dominant one throughout our modern history. in 1907 the tillman act prohibited campaign contributions by corporations. the taft heartily act was upheld by the court in 1957 in u.s. v. automobile workers. when the supreme court first made the leap to the expenditure contribution distinction in buckley vs. valeo, 1971, it left intact the long-standing distinction between first amendment rights of living individuals and corporations, legal, fictional persons. the 1982 case of f.e.s. vs. national right to work committee, justice rehnquist wrote for a unanimous court that it was proper to treat corporations more restrictively than people. how i wish that were the majority opinion of the court
today. the further analysis in 1986 in f.e.c. vs. massachusetts citizens for life, though striking down restrictions on speech by a pro-life organization actually underscored the originalist understanding that when the constitution protects corporate speech, it only does so as a proxy for the underlying free speech rights of real living, breathing individuals. in that case a nonprofit organized and funded specifically for the purpose of bringing about a political goal, pro-life policies, was seen as having free speech rights only because of the rights of those individuals who funded it and organized it. when we talk about a corporation's first amendment rights, we should be using shorthand for the first amendment rights of those who are shareholders or who own it or who control it. the corporate individual distinction was even again affirmed as recently as 1990 in the austin case. the constitutional history of limitations on corporate speech was so clear that the supreme
court had upheld the mccain-feingold act in 2003, just a bare six years before they struck it down. what possibly could have changed in those intervening years that would be so convincing to an originalist mind-set? i don't know. in my view, this decision did not make sense. but i do know that campaign finance, which was a bipartisan issue in this chamber in 2003, where senators feingold and senator mccain, a democrat and a republican led a strong bipartisan coalition to rein in the negative influence of special interest money. that has changed. that has shifted to today, sadly, a starkly partisan issue. as we've seen today, senator after senator of the other party has risen to speak about lots of issues, but really none has
addressed head on why disclosure is no longer in the best interest of our citizens. and yet, democrat after democrat, senator after senator from my side of the aisle has stood to stand firmly with those organized by senator white house who has led so ably this discourse on the floor today, who views the disclose act as striking one important blow to ripping the cover off the dollars in secret contributions that today i think threaten to swamp our electoralship. if citizens united has tilted elections to those who has money to buy them, it -- the disclose act will arm those to level the playing field a little bit. the disclose act requires disclosure. it requires unions, corporations and super pacs which spends
$10,000 or more on certain campaign activities to promptly file a report with the f.e.c., to file a report with the federal election commission within 24 hours. this brings some measure of fairness, of transparency back to our election so that voters can make informed decisions instead of simply being pushed and prodded and ultimately duped by a flood of negative ads. i'm confident it does not restrict or limit free speech of any kind. this bill simply allows voters, those who are in the driver's seat or should be in our system, those who hire and fire us, to see who is spending money to influence their decision at the ballot box. the disclose act imposes the minimum possible burden on organizations spending vast amounts of money on elections while still requiring the kind of prompt and timely disclosure voters deserve and expect in this electronic and this digital age where the ads that flood the
airwaves, that push for a decision happen so close to an election that it's important to have disclosure real time. we voted on the disclose act earlier tonight, but my colleagues across the aisle lined up in lockstep against it. sadly, every member of the other party voted against it. what is so wrong, mr. president, with voters having information about who is trying to influence their vote? why is this basic information so important to hide from the american people? public disclosure of campaign contributions and spending should be expedited, should be swift, should be available so voters can judge for themselves what is appropriate. i couldn't agree more. i agreed when the esteemed republican leader said those exact words in 1997, and i agree with him today. disclosure, he said, is the best disinfectant. earlier today, i had the honor of presiding as you do now,
mr. president, and i got to listen to the republican majority leader speak against disclosure. there are many other issues to which we can and should turn. there are many other important issues before our country. he raised them all in turn. but the thing i have the hardest time with was his leading the other caucus, one after the other, to speak against, to vote against disclosure. something that he himself, the republican leader, spoke so forcefully in favor of as recently as 1997. disclosure is the best disinfectant. back then, the talking points for the other caucus were spend all you want. there should be no limits on campaign contributions as long as there is disclosure. disclosure will keep things open and fair. sadly, today even that small measure of rationality has been openly abandoned. voters in my home state don't want secret spending clouding the legitimacy of our elections. they want to exercise this most
basic american right out in the sunshine with knowledge, with tbhftion about -- with information about who backs whom, just as i believe our founders intended. let's face it, folks. these super pac's aren't raising hundreds of millions of dollars to run campaign ads that are updates on the latest sports scores that are filled with youtube videos of sneezing pandas or yawning kittens. these super pac's are gearing up to run the most negative possible campaign ads, the sorts of ads that can change hearts and minds because they have no accountability, bus they have no one's name at the -- because they have no one's name at the bottom line, because they feel free and are free to make the nastiest, most unfounded political attacks. four years ago, at this point in the campaign cycle, just 9%, 9% of the ads on tv were negative. according to the west leean media project which has scored ads by their nifty or positive.
just 9%. what do you think that is this year, mr. president? at this early stage in fall campaigning, 0%. 70% of ads have been negative, and it's not even july. it's not even august. at the same point in 2008, 3% of the ads came from outside groups like super pac's. this year, 60% had been paid by outside groups. campaigns themselves have inevitably as a result taken on a more negative tone. a more caustic aspect. there is no doubt in my mind that the primary mission of most super pac's is to fund the sorts of ads that destroy candidates and campaigns, that tear them down, that contribute to the steady pollution and degradation of our political discourse. they are raising money to buy television ads that assault the fame and destroy the candidates they don't like. this same study from the wesleyan media study bears that out. it found that 80% of ads that super pac's and interest groups
have run in this cycle have been negative. is there any wonder then that our campaigns, our politics, our culture have become more steadily divisive and this floor more consistently divided. there are no centrist super pac's. there are no c-4's that are determined to fund a message about bringing america together. these super pac's are designed to divide us and are doing a great job. at the end of the day, one of the questions we have to have for the citizens of america is what does this mean for you? what does it mean to have tens or hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into negative ads, driving the outcome of elections at the state and federal level that simply divide us? it means more partisanship, it means more rancor, it means less progress, it means fewer problems solved. if the intention of these super pac's, of these special c-4's were so positive, then why would they need to hide whom they were supporting? why would they need to conceal the purposes of the ads they
support? let me, if i might, for a few moments respond to some things i heard earlier today from republicans while i was presiding and while i was watching in my office. one of my republican colleagues earlier today claimed the disclose act doesn't apply to labor unions, suggested that this was a big wet kiss to organized labor from my side of the aisle. this suggestion was made by several in leadership. it is a ludicrous claim. every provision in the disclose act applies equally to covered organizations. corporations, business associations, membership organizations and unions. why have a $10,000 threshold? to reduce the burden on all membership organizations of all kinds, the $10,000 threshold is enough to cover 93% of the money raised by these super pac's, and thus doesn't needlessly burden national membership organizations with thousands of members who contribute $25 or
$50 or $100. it's these handful of folks who are contributing huge amounts of money, whose contributions we hope to expose to the sunshine, to make positive contributions to allowing voters to know who is contributeing to whom and why. one other thought i wanted to add to tonight's debate is that the africa subcommittee chair on the foreign relations committee. mr. president, i often have the opportunity to hear from and meet with legislators and heads of state from africa who come to meet with us here in washington. they come to the united states to listen to us and to hear from us how our democracy functions, because for much of the world we are considered the gold standard of how to run free, fair and open elections, how to deliberate as an open and positive body, of how to be accountable to and serve the people of the united states. we already have some challenges. making progress, listening to each other and getting past the
partisan divide, but if we already have challenges, if the folks listening wonder why the senate of the united states listens to our citizens enough, just wait until another billion dollars of secretive special interest money pours into our campaign. in my view, one of the things we can hold up to the rest of the world is that we have clean, fair elections. this decision by this supreme court, citizens united, threatens that at its very core. this flood of money suggests that what is our greatest accomplishment in many ways as a nation is a very real risk. we cannot in my view loose the moral -- lose the moral high ground of being a country that has fought so long of being a place where every person, every real person has an equal vote and an equal right to be heard. mr. president, the unfortunate reality is we're not going to be able to amend the constitution to repeal the citizens united
decision this year. i wish we could, but it's not going to happen on that timeline. as we saw earlier today, this senate is apparently not even willing to require the slightest bit of transparency and accountability by passing the disclose act as we should. maybe we'll get the votes tomorrow. maybe after listening to this tonight, after hearing from us, our constituents will be moved to contact other members of this body. but i'm concerned. i'm concerned, mr. president, that the congress is not going to be able to stem the massive influx of cash into our elections this year or this cycle. it may, in fact, be too late. there is a reason campaigns and super pac's fund these negative ads. they work. they are designed to go around your head and target your heart. they move you to vote on what you are afraid of, not what you aspire to, and they can be so highly effective. i don't like negative ads, you don't like negative ads.
our citizens and our constituents don't like negative ads. we still have a choice, though. we may not yet be able to amend the constitution. we may not be able to persuade the other side to pass the disclose act this time, but we can allow ourselves instead to say we won't listen to these craven, destructive ads. we can change the channel. we can ignore the ads. we can learn about candidates and their records. we can vote from a place of power instead of fear. each and every one of us, each and every citizen can be more powerful than the supreme court, can be more powerful than the billionaires and corporations who are trying to sway their votes by deciding to be better with our politics, by deciding to listen past the smear campaigns and the negative attacks. it is my hope, mr. president, that we will be able someday to pass the disclose act and to amend the constitution, but
until then, i am left with this. with the encouragement of my colleagues, with confidence in our citizens and with optimism that somehow through this smear campaign of super pac ads, the truth of the american system will still be shown to the world. thank you. with that, i yield the floor. mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: mr. president, let me thank senator coons for his remarks, echo one point that he made and make an announcement. the point that i'd like to echo is that the importance of american democracy and of clean american elections does indeed extend beyond our borders, as senator coons mentioned from his role as the chair of the subcommittee on africa and the foreign relations committee. i grew up in the foreign service and served on the intelligence committee, have traveled pretty widely in that role, and there is a reason that presidents have
talked about our nation as a city on the hill. there is a reason that presidents have described our nation as a lamp raised up in the darkness, that the glow from what we accomplish lights the world. there is a reason that america talks about -- the hymn "america" talks about how our alabaster cities gleam. there is not much gleam on those alabaster cities tonight, not after this vote. there is a lot of mud on the walls of those cities, and it's going to get worse unless we pass this vote, and people get it. which brings me to my announcement, which is that up to this evening, the progressive change campaign committee has had 34,269 americans sign its petition supporting the disclose act. demand progress has had over 50,000 americans sign up for its
petition supporting the disclose act. credo action, as i mentioned earlier, has had 213,000 americans, 213,000 americans sign up as citizen cosponsors of the disclose act. this stack of papers has 57 names to a page. 213,000 americans who really put their name down there, something that evidently the big, sneaky donors aren't willing to do and our colleagues aren't willing to force them to do. and closeact.com has 320,378 signatures supporting the disclose act. that web site got so much activity earlier tonight as we rolled into this vote that the web site crashed from the
activity of americans trying to be a part of the debate that we are having here, trying to make their voices heard because they perfectly well understand that these big special interests, the ones that don't want how and why they spend their money in politics to be known to anybody, they don't have americans' best interests at heart, and they see this coming and they want to fight back. that total is 617,000 americans who have signed up to have our backs and to support this bill. so as we go forward into the remarks from senator pryor, senator blumenthal and then senator franken, we should know that it's not just the six of us that are now in this chamber. for each one of us, there are 100,000 americans who are behind us and want this to happen. senator pryor. the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. pryor: thank you, mr. president. i want to thank my colleague
from rhode island for his great leadership, not just on this issue but many issues. this is certainly a very important issue, and i rise today to lend my voice to supporting campaign finance reform and specifically the disclose act. i want to come back to that phrase lend my voice here in just a minute, but the disclose act here, mr. president, a lot of times people back home hear about these bills, they are 500 pages long or 2,000 pages long. this one is barely 20 pages long. it's really about 19 pages and four lines long. this is a short bill, very concise, very to the point. i'm for it, i'm for even broader campaign finance reform. and let me give you one example of why i support campaign finance reform. there has been too much money in federal politics for a long, long time. this didn't just start last year or even five years ago.
this has been building over a long period of time. mr. president, when i ran for attorney general in my state in 1998, i raised and spent somewhere around $800,000. that may sound like a lot of money, and certainly in a federal race it's not a lot of money, but that got the job done. i had a republican opponent. we fought it out. she was a very worthy opponent. we had debates and we sort of barnstormed around the state. it was wonderful. 2002, four years later, i decided to run for the senate. that year, i had to raise somewhere in the neighborhood -- i don't have the figures in front of me -- but somewhere a little bit over $4 million. so i went -- same state, basically the same population, same voters, nothing had really changed except i went from a state race, statewide race, raised and spent for the
campaign about $800,000, to about five times that amount in 2002. that was before there were super pacs and that was before money really took over like you see in 2012. and money really has taken over the system and it's not good. it's not good at all. now, i'm for the disclose act but i also think that we should do larger campaign finance reform based on transparency. actually, mr. president, i'm supportive of lower giving amounts instead of higher giving amounts. i support something that we used to do in arkansas -- i haven't looked at the state law in awhile, i assume it's the same -- where pac haves to play by the same -- pacs have to play by the same rules everybody else does. they're subject to the same limits. i think that takes away with a lot of the funny business that goes on with pacs. i think when we do campaign finance reform, we have to
reform more than just the campaigns themselves. because right now the campaigns are very regulated. there's a lot of transparency, there's a lot of disclosure, there's a lot of limits and requirements on campaigns. if it's mark pryor for the u.s. senate or whoever it may be, there are lots of rules that govern that. and that's the way it should be. the problem is outside the campaign, the extracurricular activities. that's where the real challenge is and that takes us to citizens united. i must say, with all due respe respect, that i think it is naive to hold that money does not have a corrosive effect on politics. it does. we've seen it for two centuries in this country, we've seen that money has a corrosive effect on politics. there have been various reform movements that have been designed to curb that corrosive effect, but unfortunately the citizens united case just kicked the door open wide, as wide as
it's ever been kicked in american history. i don't want to criticize the supreme court, but i certainly hope that after the 2012 elections, they will have an opportunity to revisit that decision. and i hope that they are looking at the press reports where these super pacs and other groups are saying that they're going to raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars. in fact, one taboo laition tabs just against president obama's election campaign, just to make sure he doesn't get reelected, there's well over a billion dollars that they claim they're going to raise and spend to defeat this president. mr. president, that just skews the whole political system in this country. it's not healthy. it's not good. it's -- i see these pages here that are with us today and they're learning about our
democracy and i'm so proud of them for being here and being here late night, both on the democratic and republican side, so glad they have this opportunity. i hope it's an opportunity of a lifetime for them. but i -- i don't want the lesson to be that money owns politics because that's kind of where we are today. we're going to find out in 2012 how much of an impact it has, but let's go to the first amendment. again, don't want to get in too deeply to the supreme court's decision in citizens united because i hope they revisit it, but we as citizens have rights that are protected by the u.s. constitution. the constitution calls us persons. they call us people. unfortunately in this recent decision, the u.s. supreme court has basically said that corporations are people and persons and are given that same right. i disagree with that. corporations can't vote. they can't be drafted into the military. they don't have a religion to be
protected. there's a lot of difference in corporations. there's always been this legal understanding that a corporation can be a person for certain purposes. everybody agrees with that and we understand why. but not for all purposes. and not for political purposes. one of the truths that we hold self-evident in our system of government is that our rights are inalienable. they don't come from the state. our rights come from something -- some higher authority than just the constitution or just the u.s. government or just the congress. our rights are inalienable. well, corporations are created by people. they don't have inalienable rights. it's ridiculous to think that they do. again, i hope the supreme court will take an opportunity, based on what they saw in 2012, to revisit that decision. let me just talk about the current state of affairs. i know i have colleagues waiting and i want to wrap this up as quickly as i can.
the current state of affairs is we have unlimited money coming into the political system and secret money coming into the political system. that is a bad combination. that is not good for the publi public's welfare. it's not good for the average voter and the average citizen. again, we have a first amendment right to free speech. there's no doubt about that. and we should. and we should zealously and jealously protect that. but in the political situation we have today, if i have a person in arkansas that wants to give a hundred dollars for a campaign, say a local congressional campaign, he wants to give a hundred dollars, well, somebody else can come along -- it may be an individual, may be a corporation, we don't know who it is -- they can give a million dollars or they can give more. it can be unlimited. but i just want to use round figures so we can talk about this in a concise way.
hundred dollars from the individual -- actually the voter in the state that's actually voting in the election, and a million dollars from who knows where. well, i would say this, i talked about it earlier, i want to lend my voice to this. i want that voter to have a voice, and i don't want that outsider or that secret money or whoever's offering that to have a voice that's 10,000 times louder than what that person in arkansas has. it would be like right here. if i was here speaking today and talking about me being for the disclose act and i turn around and there were 10,000 other people crammed in this chamber talking about the same act but talking against the act, whose voice is going to be heard by the public? it's not going to be mine. and that's the problem with the current state of affairs. so let's say a television spo spot -- i'll just pick a number -- cost $500. that's a cheap spot. that's a laughablely cheap spot in a lot of markets. but let's say it's a small
market and it's not in primetime. let's say it's $500. i'll just pick that figure. so if that person gives a hundred dollars, they've bought one-fifth of a tv ad. one-fifth. that's about, what, six seconds. tv ad. if that person -- if that corporation or outside person or whoever it is gives a million dollars, they've bought 2,000 tv ads. 2,000 compared to 6 seconds. there's no comparison at all. it's unfair. it drowns out and dilutes our first amendment right that's protected in the constitution. last pointed i want to make on this unlimited money and then i want to make my final point here in just a second. but on the unlimited money, you need to ask yourself, why are they doing this? why are they giving this money? is it out of the goodness of their hearts? no. that's not it. that's not it. elections have consequences.
they want to influence the election because they want the consequence to be that they have influence, they have power, they have control. that's what this is about. we talk about it in terms of 30-second ads and negative ads. what this is about ultimately is who makes decisions in this country. is it the general public? is it elected officials who are here because sometimes they go through bruising campaigns to get here but they're here and they're trying to put the public interest first? or are those decisions going to be made by people whose elections were bought lock, stock and barrel with unlimited and secret money? that's what's at stake today. that's what's at stake tonight. that's why i'm for the disclose act. i don't think it goes far enough but i do want to finish on that last point. the disclose act is about transparency. that is a major, major step in the right direction. i don't think it's the whole
ball game. major, major step in the right direction. i think this is a good piece of legislation. i want to thank all of my colleagues who are here tonight and who are talking about this and bringing awareness to the american public about this because i think it's important and i think this is something that we do have to get right and we need this reform and this is a great place to start. mr. president, with that, i yield the floor. mr. franken: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mr. franken: thank you, mr. president. i want to thank the senator from rhode island for his leadership on this and so many other issu issues. i want to thank the senator from arkansas for his comments. i recommend them to anyone. mr. president, minnesotans are proud of our participation in civic life and we believe very
strongly in hearing each other out. in the last presidential election, 78% of eligible voters in my state turned out to vote, well above the national turnout of 64% of voting-age citizens in 2008. in fact, minnesota has led the nation for voter turnout in the last six elections. this is really remarkable and it's one of the reasons that i'm so proud to represent my state here in the u.s. senate. but when the supreme court upended a hundred years of law with citizens united, it yanked the microphone away from average minnesotans and turned it over to a handful of millionaires and billionaires and corporations intent, as senator pryor said, on controlling the outcome of
our elections and controlling the decisions that are made that affect the men and women, children in my state. now a single person writing a check for a million dollars or $10 million or $100 million can drowned out the voice of -- voices of everyone else. and they can do so in total secrecy. we have heard about a handful of millionaires and billionaires that have written fat checks to bankroll presidential candidates, but what is most terrifying about this is that we only know about those people because they decided to let us know. for every billionaire who tells us he's writing a check to a candidate, there are probably 10 or a hundred or a thousand corporations and ultrawealthy individuals who are writing
similar checks in secret. even one of the ones we know about because he decided to let us know, now he says he's also going to give secretly. i was listening to c-span radio in my car. that's right, i listen to c-span in my car. they had a woman on who is a journalist who -- her beat is money and politics. she writes for a major american daily paper. and c-span was taking calls, and one caller basically said that all this is about privatizing social security and medicare so wall street folks can get their hands on the money from those programs and so insurance programs get their hands on medicare money. and, you know, there's truth to
that i think but so this expert then says in answer -- and i'm paraphrasing here -- well, this is actually -- that's what we thought. most people thought that was -- that it was going to be corporations giving this money, but it turns out that it's really just trawlwealthy people that are doing -- really just ultrawealthy people that are doing that. and then she paused. of course we don't know that because so much of the money is secret. a understand i thought to myself -- and i thought to myself, here is a woman whose whole area of expertise -- this is what she thinks about 10-12 hours a day is money and politics -- and yet even her, because this money is secret, even she is capable of being confused or not understanding the implications
of all of this secret money. even if it was just for her for a moment, for a couple moments. so that is the purpose of why we're up here tonight to talk about the proliferation of secret money post-citizens united and its implications on our democracies. on our democracy. now, americans may not like it -- i sure don't -- but the supreme court has ruled. and at least for now, citizens united is here to stay. the supreme court isn't final because it's right. it is right because it's final. so we need to accept that absent a constitutional amendment, congress can no longer limit corporate contributions or campaign contributions to
outside or independent groups -- so-called independent groups. and, as much as we may want to, we can't stop corporations and ultra wealthy individuals from flooding our elections with massive amounts of money. we can't stop it. but the supreme court said we can shine a light on the shadowy interests behind those unprecedented contributions. we can force these contributio contributions, organizations, and ultrawealthy individuals to disclose. justice anthony kennedy said in his majority opinion for citizens united that -- quote -- "prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their
positions and supporters. shareholders can determine whether their corporations' political speech advances a corporations' interest in making profits and citizens can see whether elected officials are in the pocket of so-called moneyed interests." unquote. justice kennedy went on to say, quote, "the first amendment protects political speech and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way." a proper way. "this transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages." unquote. i couldn't have said it better myself. and this is in his majority opinion in citizens united. my colleagues and i have simply
taken justice kennedy's words to heart, and we have drafted a bill that will bring transparency and accountability to the electorate. so they can make the decisions about who should lead our country, and that's critical because elections matter. elections determine who is going to get to washington. who's going to get here and make the decisions on behalf of the rest of the nation. americans need to know who's spending tons of money to get candidates elected, and that is why we are all here today to talk about the disclose act. this bill is not a panacea. it won't overturn citizens united, and it won't stop the tsunami of money pouring in from corporations. but it will require that all of
that special-interest money be disclosed publicly, and that will be tremendously beneficial. it will have tremendously beneficial effects for this country. we may not be able to stop the tidalwave of unlimited cash, but we can and we should, at a minimum, know who is writing those big checks. not only will this type of disclosure discourage backroom deals conducted under the cloak of secrecy, but, more importantly, will discourage donors from unleashing negative and deceptive ads against politicians who are trying to do the right thing. but that is not our world today. companies don't want you to know that they're giving lots of money to elect or defeat someone. so they do something that looks a lot like money laundering, but
it's legal. they might create and give money to shell corporations, which in turn donate to a super pac, when you look at the records for the super pac, you'll see the shell corporation but not the original source of the money. a company might give money to one shell corporation, which in turn gives known a pac or another -- gives money to a pac or another shell corporation and so on, and it ultimately reaches the superpack. that end in the super pacs -- and that's in the super pacs. the company can give the known a 501(c)(4), a so-called social welfare organization, which is under no obligation to disclose a single thing. of course, there are rules in place to make sure these nonprofits are truly social welfare organizations and
deserving of their privileged tax-exempt status; specifically, they must spend less than 50% of their money on political activities. but, unfortunately, the i.r.s. has not been aggressively enforcing this rule, and we suspect that many of these 501(c)(4)'s are not spending more than 50% on nonpolitical ads. but no matter how companies or wealthy individuals secretly funnel their money into elections, we all lose. we lose because we don't know who is paying for the negative attack ads that are constantly dominating our tv or the newspaper ads or the web ads online on the robocalls that interrupt dinner or the misleading mailers or the field operatives who knock on your
door or call you on saturday mornings. minnesotans believe strongly in hearing each other out, and they want honest, informed debate. they want to hear all sides of an issue before they make up their minds. they want -- this is why we have such a high voter turnout in our state. they want to listen to the competing priorities and visions for our state and our nation because these things aren't simple, these issues. so they want to hear all sides before they decide who to vote for at the polls. unfortunately, minnesotans can't listen to all sides when worthwhile debate is being drowned out by a tsunami of corrosive, negative, and often deceptive ads paid for by
outside special-interest groups. these days, especially if you are in a swing state, you can't put on a television without seeing them. but it is not just volume that drowns out legitimate debate and turns off voters. it is what these ads are saying. more and more they're negative or deceptive or both. according to the anenberg public policy center, listen to this, 85% of the dollars spent on presidential ads by the four top-spending 501(c)(4)'s -- these so-called social welfare organizations -- 85% of their dollars were spent on ads containing at least one deceptive claim. deceptive. no wonder people are disenchanted with our political system.
now, anonymity fuels this. it is easy to pay for ads which deceive voters when you don't have to attach your name to them. and so have no accountability. it is easy to launch personal attacks when you're doing so in secret, under the cloak of anonymity, and it is these so-called social welfare groups that are responsible for so many of the deceptive ads that have absolutely no -- absolutely no requirements to disclose their donors. the public doesn't know when they watch political ads whether they are true or deceptive, and that is a problem because there is no question that advertising works. people watch tv. they love tv. i love tv. i made a living in tv.
and when you watch tv, there are commercials. and commercials work. you know the show "madmen." it's popular and it is about advertising. in the early 1960's, about how advertising works. they discovered this all a long time ago. it is true, it works. advertising helps influence -- it influences what we buy, what we eat, what we drink, where we shop, and, yes, which politician we will support when we go to the polls. most americans don't watch or listen to c-span in their spare time, and most americans aren't engrossed in politician or keeping track -- in politics or keeping track of every vote we take here in congress, and that
is why political ads can really make or break how americans feel about a candidate come election day. the supreme court recognized this in citizens united when it noted that it had previously upheld disclosure laws in order to address the problem of reportedly independent groups running election-related ads while -- quote -- "hiding" -- this is the court -- "hiding behind dubious and misleading names." it is these generic and sometimes misleading names for outside groups with nice words like "america," or "freedom" or "prosperity" in their titles that are manipulating the public now. in the 2010 election, these outside groups spent more than $280 million on campaign ads, which was more than double what they spent in 2008, more than five times what they spent in 2006, and even more shockley,
there are estimates that outside groups will spend more than $1 billion on independent expenditures this election cycle. the public has every right know who is bankrolling these ads. it has every right no know who is bankrolling these ads. soy that it can better understand -- so that it can better understand what motivates these messages and take what they say in some context than with a grain of salt. just as importantly, what we are not seeing, what has been drowned out by all of these negative, deceptive ads is debate and discussion about the issues that most americans really care about. how many how am i going to pay -- how am i going to pay for the mortgage? how am i going to put my kids through college? how am i going to find a job in
this difficult economy? will i be able to retire and enjoy my golden years? why is this happening? why aren't ads focused on these issues? the answer is really quite simple. ads that dominate the airwaves are expensive and these ads are being bought by wealthy individuals and corporations. there are many great corporations in minnesota, but it is their duty to maximize shareholder profit. their focus is on cutting costs or consolidating their position in a market or on reducing the number of regulations they need to comply with to keep their workers safe in some cases or maybe to keep our air and water clean. their first priority isn't helping the middle class and they aren't going to spend money from their general treasuries on
ads urging candidates to keep college affordable or push for funding for pell grants or for head start or for medical research. but the bigger issue, the reason why disclosure matters so much in our political system, is that corporations just -- don't just buy ads to make their views known. they use ads aes a weapon against listings. this is a real problem. it is happening today, and it's only going to get worse and worse. now the corporations can spend what they want, as much as they want, whenever they want, with absolutely no transparency. candidates know that if they don't support the policies that corporations are pushing, they are likely to face a torrent of
negative ads funded by that corporation or that industry when they are running for election or re-election. and all those ads will come from a shell organization with a name like the american prosperity fund for america's prosperity for the future in america. the public won't know that a corporation or a wealthy individual is buying these ads, but the candidate will, and the candidate will be powerless to stop it. this is why i think the supreme court got it wrong in citizens united when it found, and i quote -- this is a quote from the supreme court in citizens united. "independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to the corruption or the appearance of corruption."
unquote. wow. that's what the court -- they made that statement without any citation to legal authority, without any citation to evidence this statement was plucked from thin air. it doesn't pass the smell test. any minnesotan knows intuitively that that is just flat-out wrong. the reality is unfortunately that money does equal power in this country, elections cost money, a lot of money, and with each election cycle, it's costing more and more. when a corporation or a wealthy individual can spend a truckload of cash to support its favorite politician and kick out a courageous politician who may have hurt its bottom line, our
entire democratic system is undermined, and if this continues, we risk becoming an oligarchy. which would undermine our already undermined middle class and would really quash the working poor's aspirations for entering the middle class. it would be harder to get a wage, to put a roof over your head, harder to afford child care, harder to send a kid to college. there will be an even greater disparity between the rich and everyone else. already since the 1970's, our nation has been growing apart. as the nation gets richer and the poorer and the middle class fall further and further behind, they have seen little or no return on their increased productivity and longer work hours. if money and power continue to
accumulate among a few individuals and companies, it will only get worse. there will be less money for education and less money for unemployment insurance and less money for basic research to cure diseases. it will be harder to get health insurance if health care reform is repealed, and they might even be successful in pushing to privatize social security or medicare. this will not benefit working families. your power to sway elected representatives should be the same regardless of whether you are the c.e.o. of a fortune 500 company or a police officer in a small town, and unfortunately we are careening toward a world where that is no longer the case and where the average american's voice is drowned out by all the special interests monopolizing
our public discourse. thomas jefferson once said -- quote -- "the end of democracy and the defeat of the american revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed corporations." i fear, mr. president, that we are on the brink of just that. the disclose act will not fix all the harm of citizens united, but it is certainly a step forward, and it will bring much-needed sunshine to our political system, which will go a long way to reducing the number and dishonesty of negative attack ads that further corrode our public dialogue and ultimately threaten our democratic system. i am disappointed that my colleagues did not recognize
just that and that they have refused to even let us have a full debate on this important bill. i understand that we may be taking up a motion for reconsideration. i urge my colleagues to reconsider and join me in supporting this important piece of legislation and join those of us who are here tonight. and if it is allowed to come -- to come up for an up-or-down vote, i'm confident this body would pass it and that it would be cheered by the american public. in closing, i would like to remind this body of an exchange benjamin franklin had with one of the delegates at the closing of the constitutional convention in 1787.
when asked whether we have either a republic or a monarchy, dr. franklin responded a republic, if you can keep it. the founders created the greatest nation in history. it is our job here to keep it that way and make sure that a nation premised on equality and freedom does not become a nation beholden to just the rich and the powerful. thank you, mr. president. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut.
mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i want to thank the senator from minnesota for his very powerful and eloquent words and particularly thank my distinguished friend and colleague from rhode island for his leadership on this issue but also to thank others who have been at his side and working with him. i have been proud to do so as a cosponsor of this measure, and to thank senator schumer who introduced a similar measure in 2010. the disclose act of 2010 in fact has been considerably narrowed and tailored to target the anonymity of huge donations, increasingly large donations today and the kind of tailoring and narrowing reflects the care and precision and hard work that my colleague from rhode island and others -- and i'm proud to
be among them -- have given to this matter. as i rise at this late hour, we can't know, we can only hope that america is listening or that our colleagues are listening, but i do know that we should be listening to america. i am listening to connecticut. and what i hear from connecticut, the people of my state, as so many of my colleagues are hearing from their constituents and citizens, is they are losing trust in the greatest democracy in the history of the world, the greatest country in the history of the planet is losing the confidence and faith of its people. i'm hearing from people like katherine sturgess of new cannan, connecticut, who says
undisclosed campaign money influences candidates, elections and determines the role of the voter. in turn, the election process is corrupted. only a few cannot be allowed to impact a system which is intended to represent us all. lawrence coyne of fairfield tells me -- and i'm listening -- right now, foreign governments, oil tycoons and wall street banks can spread millions to buy our democracy and the american public will never know. and i'm listening also to garrett timmons of brooklyn, connecticut, who says i think campaign and election reform should go much further and include a constitutional amendment in light of citizens united, but i know how unrealistic that is. at least this act -- he is referring to the disclose act of 2012 -- is a step in the right
direction, and i hope a no-brainer for congress. the people of this country are losing their representation in government to special interests and the funders of political campaigns, and to make matters worse, we don't even know who are stealing our elections. i'm listening to those people who are watching. they are watching what's happening in this country and they are losing faith because they feel washington is failing to listen, to listen to them, and millions of other hard-working families who are struggling to put food on the table, stay in their homes, find jobs and feel that the system is working for them and listening to them, as much as it is the
people who can afford to give to political campaigns, let alone who can afford to give tens of millions. if we listen to the people in america, and i am listening to the people of connecticut, we will pass the disclose act of 2012. all that it requires is openness and disclosure and accountability. it places no limits on what can be contributed, on what can be done, on what can be said. it is completely consistent with citizens united. i'm not here to relitigate that case. the supreme court in the bullock decision recently indicated it won't relitigate that case any time soon. it invalidated a montana state
law that prohibited corporations from making independent expenditures. we're not going to relitigate the question of whether a corporation is a citizen, whether any of these entities can contribute or in what amounts. the disclose act of 2012 is completely consistent with citizens united. in fact, in a certain very true sense, citizens united in its majority opinion presumed disclosure. the supreme court said the majority opinion in that case made clear the first amendment protects political speech, and i'm quoting -- "and disclosure permits citizens shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way." the framework, the reasoning, the logic of citizens united is no limits on speech but
disclosure of who is speaking and who is funding and supporting that speech. that basic premise is one that runs through the precedence of this court and of others that have litigated these cases, and it's not too much to say that the disclose act of 2012 is an essential -- to the framework that citizens united presumes. i would rather go ahead. i would favor a constitutional amendment that would enable some limits consistent with the constitution. money is corrosive.
too much money in the system corrupts. but again, we're not here to set limits. we're here to deal with secrecy, with anonymity, secrecy and anonymity not only corrode, they destroy the essence of our democracy, and by opening the system to the sunshine that will eliminate that secrecy, we are helping to restore trust and faith in government and we would be showing that washington will listen to the american people, including the people of connecticut. supreme court decisions, like elections, have consequences and citizens united certainly has shown that it has consequences. during the 2010 midterm elections, the first election season after citizens united,
outside groups spent nearly $300 million, four times as much money as in the 2006 midterm elections, before the citizens united decision. nearly half of the money spent in the 2010 elections after citizens united was decided was spent by just 10 groups. think of it, 10 groups spent more than half of that $300 million. and as spending has quadrupled, transparency has been lessened. nobody knows where this money is coming from. in 2006, only 1% of political spending by outside groups was anonymous. in 2010, 44%, nearly half, was anonymous. now, we know anonymity on the internet or in the public sphere breeds negativism, it breeds
deception and often it breeds outright lies. accountability is one of the watch words of our democracy, and the anonymity of this spending, of these contributions, of the tens of millions, indeed, hundreds of millions of dollars that are contributed by a handful of people, an entity, whether it's corporations or business association or union, is corrupting to the process. the majority opinion in citizens united dismissed concerns about unlimited political spending by claiming that prompt disclosure would make these entities and individuals accountable to shareholders, voters, consumers, the public at large and yet elections have been inundated
with secret money. citizens united had consequences, unintended and unanticipated by the supreme court. people may say, well, the justices were naive. but the fact of the matter is, this body, the congress, must compensate to ameliorate and remedy the unintended consequences of that decision. the american people have shown in polls as well as those letters that i mentioned earlier that they expect us to do so. 7 in 10 americans believe that super pacs should be illegal, including majorities of democrats, republicans and independent. this issue is not partisan. it should be bipartisan. it has been bipartisan. it has been bipartisan in the past and must be again. more than 7 in 10 americans feel there is too much money in politics, including, again, the majority of democrats,
republicans and independents. seven in ten americans, including majorities of republicans, democrats and independents believe there should be limits on contributions to political campaigns. one in four americans say they are less likely to vote. less likely to vote. because of super pacs and these anonymous donations. and, finally, 7 in 10 americans agree -- and i'm quoting -- "new rules that let corporations, unions and people give unlimited money to super pacs will lead to corruption." let the senate listen to the people of connecticut and america. let them say, we respect what you are saying again and again and again and we will act in a
bipartisan way to protect our democracy. americans want their choice of candidates to be an election, not an auction. at the very least, we should tell them and make possible for them to know who is doing the bidding in those auctions, who is doing the buying and who is doing the selling. nobody wants there to be an auction, but if contributions are not limited, the auction, at the very least, should be in the open so that the public can see who is buying, who is selling, who is bidding. that view of american democracy may not be a very elevating one
but we deal with practical reality here. and as we speak, tens of millions of americans are watching what we will do, maybe not tonight, perhaps not at this hour, but at the end of the day, at the end of this debate they will hold the united states senate accountable for what it does or what it fails to do. and i urge my colleagues to reconsider and approve the disclose act of 2012. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: mr. president, i rise today to join my colleagues in supporting the disclose act. i want to commend senator blumenthal for his extraordinarily insightful and articulate words with respect to this critical issue. i particularly want to commend
my colleague from rhode island, senator whitehouse. he has been the driving force to bring this issue to the floor, to educate all of us in the senate and the american people about what is at stake here. in many respects, its our democracy. it's the presumption that every american has that their vote counts just as much as anybody else's vote, that elections are decided based upon issues and ideas and not the sheer volume and the sheer magnitude of 30-second advertisements which are designed more to divert than to inform, more than -- designed more to incite than to inform. most people believe in a -- the system which is based upon thoughtful consideration of ideas and issues and everyone's
vote counts. senator whitehouse is extraordinary an extraordinarily gifted attorney. he understands these issues perhaps better than anyone in body. he was our federal attorney and our attorney general. and he's brought not just this knowledge of the constitution but this passion for justice and fairness and decency and democracy to the forefront of our debate today. and this will not be the last day i think we will be debating this issue. so let me begin by commending his efforts. a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution is the right to vote, and each citizen gets one vote and this right represents a critical pillar of our democracy. because we treat everyone equally in allowing each citizen to have this crucial and critical say in who governs,
what are the issues, ultimately what is the course of this great country. but i worry because of the supreme court decision in citizens united that our political and civic conversations now advantage those who flood our airwaves, papers and web sites by talking, if not shouting, louder simply because they have more money and resources to do so. "the new york times" recently included the following in an article giving us one indication of how much money is awash in our political system and reflects what my colleague from connecticut said. according to "the times," -- quote -- "during the 2010 midterm elections, tax-exempt groups outspent pacs" -- the traditional political action committees which have been in effect since the 1970's -- "by a 3-2 margin, according to a recent study by the center for
responsive politics and the center for public integrity, with most of that money devoted to attacking democrats or defending republicans. and such groups have accounted for two-thirds of the political advertising bought by the biggest outside spenders so far in the 2012 election cycle, according to kim talk media's campaign media analysis group, with close to $100 million in issue ads." a small group of anonymous individuals organized as corporate entities, not-for-profit corporate entities in some cases, $100 million. and the clock is still ticking and the amount is accumulating. that electioneering in the shadows is not what most americans want. they want robust debate. they want candidates to engage as candidates, not through surrogates, not the witting or unwitting beneficiaries or victims of anonymous advertisements in their state,
in their race. this is not, i believe, what the creators of the constitution thought would happen or hoped would happen. they envisioned i think one in which the best ideas, the best arguments prevailed, regardless of how loudly one spoke. that it was the quality of the argument, not the volume of the speaker. and what should be important is this quality of speech, not the quantity and, frankly, there's a direct correlation between the amount of money you have today and the -- the quantity of your speech on the media. that's just the reality of paid advertising, which dominates political campaigns. but this decision because of -- vision because of citizens united i think has been turned on its head. now those with the greatest resources, the most money, have been given a disproportionate advantage, and they've been given that advantage without the need to stand up to be
accountable, to be known, to disclose what they've done, what they stand for, where the money's coming from, basic. and that anonymity is corrosive. by allowing corporations and unions and not-for-profits to unleash the full power of their treasury funds in explicitly advocating for the election or geet of candidates in federal -- defeat of candidates in federal and state elections in the name -- in the name of protecting or promoting free speech, i think the supreme court missed the mark. missed the mark about the centrality of an individual's vote and the substance of a campaign being about ideas, not about derogatory advertising, not about anything else except the issues. that's the ideal. that's what our founding fathers were hoping for and, indeed, i think expecting. and that i think has been terribly distorted by this opinion.
there's an interesting sort of situation going on here. in the attempt to create under citizens united what the supreme court i expect it was hoping to do, create an atmosphere in which speech is free, they've created a situation in which speech is no longer free, effective speech is no longer free. it actually comes with a very high cost and goes to the person with -- who is the highest bidder. that's not free speech, not effective free speech. it's purchased speech. and if our elections are going to be decided not by free speech but by purchased speech, they'll be won always by the highest bidder, by the person with the biggest wallet, the person who's willing to spend as much as necessary to prevail. and it will raise and it does raise the specter of, is this about the future of the country
or is this about the narrow self-interest of someone who's willing to invest a great deal of money into a particular race? and i think most people would conclude it's probably about the narrow self-interest of someone who invests a great deal of money in a race. simply put, i think citizens united is deeply flawed and -- and more than one expert has voiced their frustration and disappointment with this decision. shortly after the supreme court handed down its decision in citizens united in 2010, norm ornstein of the american enterprise institute, which is a center right -- more right than center, perhaps, organization, wrote in a column in "roll call" called -- quote -- "court way oversteps its decision in case." these words, "i hoped" he said, "citizens united would be decided fair in rolely, but the fear that the court would take a
meet axe to a century of law and policy. my worst fears were realized. this decision equates corporations, which have one goal -- to make money -- with individual citizens who have many goals and motives in their lives, including making a better society, protecting their children and grandchildren and future generations, and so on and so on. this was a case never raised by the plaintiffs and never formally brought before the roberts' court. a pro-profit corporation complained that it was barred from bringing its message. the cases and laws struck down were considered carefully by judges and congresses past including the mcconnell decision. the political and ideological selection of the supreme court brought on particularly by the
retirement of sandra day o'connor is the difference. those are the names of norm ornstein, a respected political analyst in this community and indeed probably in this nation. additionally, judge richard posner, a respected judge on the seventh circuit court of appeals, who was appointed to the bench by president reagan, recently state the following: "the court, rather naively, as to seems to most observers, reasoned in the citizens united case that the rick of corruption would be slight if the donor was not contributing to a candidate or political party but merely expressing his political preferences through an independent organization such as a super pac. that organization either controlled by or coordinating with a candidate or political party." he goes on, "it is thus" -- "it
thus is difficult to see what difference there is between pac contributions. a super pac is a valuable weapon for a campaign, as the heavy expenditures that restore our future, a large super pac that supports romney proves. the donors to it are known and it is unclear why they should expect less quid pro quo from their favorite candidate if he's successful than a direct donor to the candidate's campaign would be. now, judge posner is make the case very effectively. if there are limits on a direct individual donor's contributions because there is an abiding suspicion -- and the courts have confirmed that you don't even want to create the appearance of a quid pro quo -- the idea that a super pac whose donors are all known has less of an ability to
influence a candidate and more, i think, significantly, not only a candidate but perhaps an elected official, that doesn't -- that doesn't follow. i think judge posner's comments are very on point in that this also invites the perception and perhaps the reality of i inappropriate influence on candidates and on elected officials, and that was a great deal at the heart of why we pa passed campaign finance reform legislation decades ago. now, even these points of view by norm ornstein, but judge posner have not convinced our republican colleagues to join us in effect to trying to correct the deficiencies, which my able colleague from connecticut pointed out was the fact that the case of citizens presumes
this disclosure. we have tried to debate this legislation and variations many times before. we have taken even much more, i think, stronger action in previous versions. but today we're here in a good good-faith effort to meet our colleagues more than halfway. there are those who oppose previous versions of the disclose act on the grounds that there were provisions unrelated to disclosure, that this is all about disclosure. but these concerns are addressed head-on in this legislation crafted by my colleague, because it focuses solely on disclosure, and it is effective after this fall's election. and so i would ask my colleagues, especially those who have said that they're all for disclosure, to join us -- to join us to pass this
legislation, because it's all about disclosure. and let me go back to the language of the supreme court majority opinion quoted by senator blumenthal, because they presume in the decision there would be full disclosure, and that's what we're asking for tonight on this floor. give the court what it thought it had: a system by which the american public can know immediately who is putting all this money into the elections. in their words, "prompt disclosure" of the court in citizens united, "prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters. shareholders can determine whether their corporations' political speech advances the corporation's interest in making profits and citizens can see whether elected officials are -- quote -- "'in the pocket' --
quote close -- "of so-called moneyed interests." disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities a proper way. this transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speeches and messages." that's what the court said. and yet if we don't pass this legislation, all of this is irrelevant, because there is no disclosure, because corporations can't make judgments about what their directors are investing in in terms of political activity. individuals can't make judgments about the commercials they're seeing because they don't know who is behind them really. so if we want to create the context which presumably, under
the supreme court's decision, we have to pass this legislation p. but if we want to ignore, indeed what the court has said, ignore what our constituents have said, and allow this anonymous money to flood our elections, to raise doubt about the process, to undercut what traditionally people think is the american way, one person-one vote, it is about the issues, then let's have the election. so i urge my colleagues to support the disclose act. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor. mr. casey: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. casey: thank you, mr. president. i rise tonight to join what so many have spoken of tonight, which is about our system of electing officials to various levels of government. in the case of the federal government, we're always concerned about how that process
plays out. we live in a country where, for generations now, we've urged people to come to the public square in a sense, to vote, to participate, to use their free speech rights, their freedom of association, the rights they have to participate in electio elections. and what we're confronted with now, without the passage -- or in the absence of the passage of this legislation, is what i would say are special rules for secret money or maybe better-said, a special rules for a small group of individuals or entities for -- to spend secret money. we have in pennsylvania, as one of the buildings in the capital area, right next to the capital, the financ finance building. when it was built in the 130's,
it had an inscription about preceptsprecepts. one of the inscriptions says the following. it say, open to every inspection, secure from every suspicion." a pretty simple precept. and i think we all understand what that means. that if you have a system or a candidate or an organization or a process that's open to inspection, the chances of there being suspicion about that candidate or about that process, about that organization would be diminished. so more disclosure, morecruit. we all know the old expression -- i'm not quite sure who said this but we've all used this. the idea of sunlight being the best disinfectant to make sure
that we make our political process open. and it's baffling to me why someone would not want to vote for this legislation when you consider the language. it's -- it's a piece of legislation which just barely gets to the 20th page. i was looking at page five where the authors of the bill -- senator whitehouse from rhode island, who's done great work on this, and so many others who worked with him -- the language on page five says as follows. it's under the title "disclosure statement." "any covered organization that makes campaign-related disbursements aggregating more than $10,000 in an election reporting cycle shall not more than 24 hours after each disclosure debate file a statement with the federal election commission made under
penalty of perjury that contains information described in paragraph 2." and then it goes on to describe what you have to disclose. very simple. i don't know how you could be opposed to that. if you believe in debates in the public square -- it is not as if we say to people come to the public square, but a few of you can go into a corner. we're going to cloak you in secrecy and you're going to be in the shadows. everyone else in the public square is going to no who's on the square and is going to know what your point of view and position is in the debate. but there are a couple others we will put in the shadows. but don't which ar worry about . doesn't sound very american. i think when people see what happened in the last couple of years, they're very concerned that we've got a system now that has too much of this secret money, too much money in the shadows without the sunlight providing the disinfectant.
and when you consider what we're doing now and compare it to what's happened over the last generation, they have disclaimers at the bottom of the advertising and now in the more recent period, the candidate himself or herself has to identify themselves by name and say that they paid for the ad. this legislation doesn't even get to that. it really focuses on the basic question of disclosure. so that a citizen can say, okay, well, this organization made this assertion in an advertisement, and i'm going to find out who they are so i can make a judgment about the advertisement before i vote. very simple. it's how our system works. people go to the public square. they have a debate. there's a lot of sunlight, a lot of disclosure, and the debates are freewheeling and they're tough, but they're in the open,
and they comply with that precept that i started with. they're open to every inspection, and, therefore, the chances of suspicion are lessened, because everything is out in the open. that's all this is. providing a measure or a degree of sunlight into that process, into that public square. so, if all these generations of reform have told us -- which i think they have told us, and i know this is true in pennsylvania -- that more disclosure, more sunlight, more scrutiny is going to lead to better elections and better participation, i don't think we should run counter to that history. so, i'm not trying to assert that everything else about our elections is perfect. we still have a lot of other reforms we could institute. but at least we can give people some measure of confidence that when they hear an assertion in that public square, that they
are going to know where it comes from, they're going to know the origin of that statement, they're going to know the bias or point of view, and they're going to make a judgment about that before they exercise their right to vote. we should allow people that opportunities, to maybe be a little suspicious, but it is hard to be secure in your knowledge about information if you don't know where it comes from, you don't know who is the real speaker, and you don't know their point of view. so, i think there are a the although of americans that -- there are a lot of americans who know that our system isn't perfect even with passage of this legislation, but they would at least say to us, let's at least remove the possibility -- which think is evident now -- that you've got a small group of people that are allowed to spend this secret money and, therefore, elevator or rais, ele
suspicion. so let's be open to every measure of scrutiny and let's bring our point of view to the public square, like we have for so many generations. let's pass the disclose act and make sure that at a minimum, as tough as times are for a lot of people now, that at least they're going to have the information they need about a point of view before they vote. mr. president, i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. it's late. i forgot about the microphone.
and first, i want to thank all of my colleagues who have been so diligent, hard working and just prescient on this issue. of course, senator whitehouse from rhode island, the leader of our task force, that led us to this point, senator merkley has been very active and involved, as have you, mr. president. senator shaheen, senator bennet. so many people on the task force did a very, very good job. senator udall as well. and so did so many of our colleagues. the fact that we have been on the floor now for close to five hours and there hasn't been a moment's pause says something. it says -- it talks about the broad support that this modest but powerful act has on our side of the aisle. the fact that no one unfortunately on the other side of the aisle has come to debate this issue says something as
well. the only debate, in fact, we heard was the republican leader in a brief speech in an argument that was sort of almost 1984-ish, that the reason we shouldn't disclose that people who give would be harassed. well, by that, we should probably have everything be in secret, because of course in an open democracy when you do things in the political arena, you're subject to criticism. that is what freedom is about. and now to come up with this inside-out argument that we shouldn't disclose because people might be criticized for the contributions they make or the ads they fund, that is the most antidemocratic, anti-u.s.
constitution argument that i have heard t just doesn't even pass the laugh test. and i'm surprised, my colleague is one of the most brilliant political minds we have around here. even when i disagree with him, i respect its mind, but this argument is -- to put it, to say sophistry is kind, and i don't think it's going to catch on with people. anyway, we have had very few comments other than that made by colleagues on the other side of the aisle here tonight, and that is truly unfortunate, truly unfortunate. we should have a debate on this issue, but i have a feeling most of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle realize by their previous statements, by the previous position of the republican party and just by knowing them that we're right. disclosing contributions is only
fair and only right and only american and only in keeping with our democracy and our constitution. and i think the reason so few people have shown or no people have shown on the other side is that the reason that they're not supporting us is not out of conviction but out of short-term political advantage, because obviously the super pac's, large, large multimillion-dollar con tricks are coming mostly from the other side and may indeed benefit them in the election, but in the long run, it's bad for our democracy. in the long run, i would argue it's bad for the republican party to shy away from not only debating this issue but supporting this bill, because the issue of disclosure is so simple and so easy and so right. the issue of disclosure is one
that's now wracking the presidential campaign. you can run but you can't hide. the argument of disclosure will in a sense chase you town and -- down and beat you, so you might as well join in now and do the right thing. now, i'd like to make a point here. the two top advertisers in this election cycle are predictably the two candidates' campaigns. what's the third? just after the obama campaign and the romney campaign? it is something called crossroads g.p.s. in the last week alone, crossroads g.p.s. announced almost $25 million in advertising against the president and the senators. and the group crossroads g.p.s., it has a name, doesn't mean much, they don't have to
disclose a single one of their donors. in fact, reports indicate that crossroads g.p.s. raised $77 million in its first two years of existence and 90% of that came from, at most, 24 donors. that's an average of $2.9 million per donor. so far in this election cycle, as of may 31, super pac's have spent $135.6 million on electioneering. 20% comes from 501-c-4 organizations --quote, unquote -- he have social welfare organizations that don't have to declare their donors at all, thanks to the decision at citizens united, and many of the donors behind the other 80% of super pac's could also be anonymous. that's because people can donate to the 501-c-4's that require no
disclosure and then the c-4's can donate to the 527's, which require some disclosure. the level of disclosure under our present law isn't just inadequate, it's laughable. the voters deserve to know the truth, ugly or not, of who are behind these super pac's. if wealthy special interests want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in our government, well, then they should pay their fair share of taxes rather than fund candidates who will give them special tax breaks paid for by middle-class americans. yet, because of the flawed citizens united ruling, corporations that can vote in our elections are trying to buy the recognize dollar outcomes that benefit them, and it's all in secret. our solution is simple.
the disclose act simply restores transparency and accountability. there are many of us who would limit what people can give and how they could give it. i believe, frankly, that buckley v. vallejo was not as bad a decision as citizens united but it's a bad decision. i introduced legislation, a constitutional amendment to undo it years ago, and two years ago, i joined my colleague from name who had spearheaded this drive in the house to support his legislation. so i believe there ought to be limits because the first amendment is not absolute. no amendment is absolute. you can't scream fire falsely in a crowded theater. we have liable laws. we have antipornography laws. all of those are limits on the first amendment. well, what could be more important than the well spring
of our democracy? and certain limits on first amendments rights that if left unfettered destroy the equality, any semblance of equality in our democracy of course would be allowed by the constitution, and the new theorists on the supreme court who don't believe that, we're not sure where their motivation comes from, but they're just so wrong. they're just so wrong. so i hope that we're going to move to change this law. i hope we're going to pass first the disclose act, then the broader bill that has been introduced which also has disclaim, and i hope eventually we will find a supreme court
that allows reasonable limits on campaign contributions. that is so, so important. so, so important for the future. and, mr. president, i have to tell you i'm an optimist and i love this country. we had our dscc retreat this weekend and we heard stories about people who had risen from poverty to now run for the u.s. senate after having careers of great accomplishment, and hearing those stories -- i'm not going to name specific individuals. you heard them, mr. president. they're moving. it's what america is all about. being there just made me so proud to be an american. and most of our families are examples of this. my father was an exterminator. he didn't go to college. i'm here. what a place.
what a place. and despite my love for this country and my fervent belief in its future, the thing that worries me most is the effects of the citizens united case. to have 17 people contribute half of the money to republican super pac's and to have the vast majority of that money undisclosed, it's frightening. and you know, i know maybe our supreme court justices say well, you know, they do think in absolute terms this is the first amendment, but i'm sure of one thing. none of them having run for office, they have no idea of the power of these negative undisclosed ads and the corrosive effect on our democracy that the influence that those who offer these ads
have. it makes me worry about the future of this country. if we continue along this path path -- and unfortunately the supreme court seemed to have very little doubt based on the montana case where they even refused to hear it, you have to worry about the fundamental fairness of how our system functions. we are not a pure democracy. i understand that. we are a republic if we can keep it, and a republic says that there ought to be some intermediation. there is an understanding in a republic that the founding fathers were very much aware of it. i guess alexander hamilton, my fellow new yorker, leading this part of it, that those who have achieved success in america deserves some influence.
maybe a little more influence than others. they believe that. that's how our republic is set up. but the pendulum has swung so far that i truly for the first time in my life worry about the future of this democracy. if a small, small group of people can control the entire political process through the powerful vehicle of undisclosed ads shown on television time and time and time and time again, if when people run for office they're afraid to offend those who have great wealth or power because these ads may be run against them, it presents one of the greatest dangers to this democracy that we've had in over 200 years.
i hope this debate may be, may be one of those nine, particularly one of those five on the supreme court maybe are watching. do they have some understanding of the damage that this decision is doing to our democracy? do they understand that when they write well, we're not against disclosure, that as long as citizens united continues to exist, it's almost a catch-22 because the way our political structure works, the heavy money that comes in on the other side side -- and there not a single republican, even those who probably agree with us in their hearts are willing to vote for